The Administrative Court of Appeal of Athens has accepted a request by the Greek Ministry of Migration Policy for a provisional order to suspend a decision of the Appeals Committee granting refugee status to a Turkish soldier, pending the outcome of judicial review proceedings against the decision. The highly unorthodox order, issued on grounds of public interest to avoid risks of disruption of diplomatic relations with Turkey, follows the first-ever challenge of an Appeals Committee decision by the government before the court. The soldier has been arbitrarily detained following the order.

“The case is a blow not only to the right to asylum, but also to the rule of law and human rights, which the judiciary will once again try to remedy,” said Eleni Koutsouraki, lawyer of the Greek Council for Refugees who represent the applicant.

The applicant was among a group of eight soldiers arriving in Greece following the attempted coup d’état of 15 July 2016 in Turkey. While their extradition upon Turkey’s request was blocked by the Greek Supreme Court due to risks of ill-treatment, his asylum application was rejected by the Asylum Service on grounds of commission of a “serious non-political crime” under the exclusion clauses of Article 1F of the Refugee Convention on the basis that the acts committed were disproportionate to the political aim pursued. The Appeals Committee noted, however, that no documents in the case file contained evidence of the appellant’s participation in the attempted coup d’état, the killings of civilians or the attempted murder of the Turkish President.

While the Greek government has rebuked critiques of political interference in the asylum procedure through its application for judicial review and suspension of the Appeals Committee decision, statements by the Government Spokesperson, Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, and the Alternate Minister of Justice, Dimitris Papangelopoulos, concur that the matter should be adjudicated by the Administrative Court of Appeals rather than an administrative authority, given the delicate legal issues involved. It should be recalled that a ruling of the Greek Council of State delivered on 22 September 2017 held that the Independent Appeals Committees fulfil the requisite guarantees of independence and impartiality to be classified as a “court or tribunal” in the terms of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive.

Following the provisional order of the Administrative Court of Appeal of Athens, the grant of asylum was suspended and the Turkish official was requested to present himself to the Asylum Service in order to receive an asylum seeker’s card. Upon receipt of the card, he was arrested by police officers and placed under administrative detention on the ground that he represented a threat to public order and national security. The detention order was issued in violation of an unequivocal prohibition on detaining persons who apply for asylum at liberty. The legality of the applicant’s detention is to be reviewedex officio by the Administrative Court.

 

 

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* A longer version of this article was first published at AIDA

 


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